The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point. I have long believed that the creditors rule should be abolished. It means that when a club is insolvent, it has to pay all its football creditors, but the other creditors—the local community and the businesses it works with—do not get any money. I believe that that rule should have been abolished. The chairman of the FA said when he was chairman of the Football League that no moral argument could be made in favour of the creditors rule, but nevertheless it stands. I welcome the fact that progress has been made in putting a greater obligation on clubs to settle with non-football creditors on much better terms than was the case a few years ago, but I would like that to go further.
Football receives, as do other sports, a considerable amount of funding from the public purse, and we in Parliament are right to take an interest in how public money is spent on our national game. In the brief time that I have, I want to set out how and why I believe the FA needs to be reformed.
The FA Council—effectively, the Parliament of football—should represent football across the community, but it is not representative of modern society and the people who play the game. Of its 122 members, 92 are over the age of 60 and 12 are over the age of 80. There are eight women, and there are four people from minority ethnic backgrounds, so there are more men over 80 on the FA Council than there are women. That is not sustainable, and it does not reflect modern society. Although some on the FA Council understand the need for change, some do not. Barry Taylor, a life vice-president of the FA and life president of Barnsley, said in a letter to his colleagues on the FA Council that it “would be great” to have more women involved,
“but not just for its own sake”.
Hearing that, I do not think that he has any serious commitment to the idea of more women on the council, or that he even understands why it is necessary.
The FA Council is an important body because it has power over youth football and women’s football, and it is an important influence on the game. The FA board needs to be stronger and more independent—a more executive body. Only one of its 12 members is a woman, and there are only two independent directors. The last three chairmen of the FA—one of them, Lord Triesman, is sitting in the Gallery—have written to the Select Committee to say that reform is necessary to strengthen the board and ensure that the balance of power is held by the independent directors on the board. That was also a recommendation in the Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s report. Reform is needed to give the FA the power to resist powerful forces and vested interests in the game, particularly the power and strength of the Premier League.
The primary job of the Premier League is to promote its competition, and it does so brilliantly all around the world. However, it exerts an enormous influence over football, because of the vast amount of money it raises and the funds it puts back into the game. We need a strong Premier League—that is good for football—but we need a strong national governing body of football that is ultimately responsible for many of the sporting and ethical decisions that football has to take.